AOL Adds Premium Mobile Unit To Programmatic Lineup

premium mobileAOL added another premium ad format to its programmatic offerings on Monday.

A full-page mobile ad, the Road Devil Interstitial for Mobile, is part of an effort to add more premium, brand-friendly units to its programmatic inventory. The unit offers brands the ability to display a store locator, bring in recent tweets or play a video in the interstitial unit.

“We’re continually looking for ways to have a brand-focused look at programmatic, across mobile, display and our platforms,” said Mike Treon, AOL VP of platform strategy.

In creating new ad units, AOL hopes to keep pace with other premium publishers attracting advertiser dollars, said Forrester senior analyst Susan Bidel. Premium units attract brand advertisers to mobile, a device that has struggled against lower-than-average CPMs.

The Road Devil Interstitial for Mobile will join other AOL premium units available programmatically. Devil Ad Suite units such as the Halo, Loft and Wallpaper, which work off the rich media technology from AOL acquisition Pictela, are among them. In July, AOL announced its Native Anywhere solutions that address sponsored content, another premium solution at scale.

AOL worked with both the supply and demand sides to activate the Road Devil unit. On the supply side, the format is available on owned-and-operated properties, like The Huffington Post and TechCrunch. Some of the 450 premium publishers in the Premium Formats Network, which includes sites such as Billboard and Martha Stewart, are testing the format. They will be able to sell these units directly or have AOL sell them on their behalf.

“It takes a lot of work for publishers to set up to do this, and the demand doesn’t exist in the open auction. We show publishers that we have thousands of advertisers, and that’s giving them the motivation to build out those units and enable them,” Treon said.

The benefit for the buy side is that it gains another premium format option. “It would be hard to access this supply programmatically” otherwise, Treon said. “We’ve done a lot of human work to build it out.”

While monetizing mobile is a challenge for publishers, Bidel doesn’t think AOL’s new solution completely addresses the problem. That publishers see higher revenues on desktop than mobile is the result of a “vicious cycle.” Advertisers don’t know what mobile consumers expect and generate ad creative not optimized for handheld devices, resulting in low-performing ad units and lower mobile budgets.

Premium mobile ad formats “give advertisers a new opportunity to get it right for specific products and consumers, but it certainly won’t solve the problem of monetization in mobile all by itself,” Bidel said.

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